Hands-on activities highlight engineering summer camps

3/27/2008 - By: Sue Putnam

Parents who worry their kids might spend too much time this summer playing video games, building skateboarding ramps or even thinking about shooting something into the sky can channel that energy into six fun opportunities at the College of Engineering’s week-long summer camps.

Starting in June, two introductory camps, one at the University and one in Carson City, will be offered for students ages 12-17. Then four “subject camps” will take place at the University through July: electrical, environmental, earthquake and geotechnical engineering all feature hands-on experience.

A new camp feature this year includes two days of digital interactive gaming taught by University computer science and engineering professors.

“Students will learn how to modify a game by changing in-game characters, changing the behavior of in-game characters, and modifying game maps,” associate professor Sushil Louis said. “We’ll start with simple arcade games and move up to working with more complicated ones with full 3-D graphics and sound. Of course, the students will get to play games and explore new ways of playing and making games like Guitar Hero accessible to everyone.”

Research assistant professor Sherif Elfass will conduct the earthquake engineering camp, where students learn what causes earthquakes, how to measure them, and how to build and isolate structures from the ground to reduce the risk of collapse.

“Students will have hands-on activities with each topic,” Elfass said. “They will build bridges from K’NEX and balsa wood and test them in the lab.”

The Center for Civil Engineering Earthquake Research is headquartered at the University and has a $10 million state-of-the-art laboratory in the field of bridge engineering. The laboratory also has three large shake tables with the capability of simulating many types of earthquakes.

Professor Gary Norris will run the geotechnical camp, where students will consider different catastrophic failures of geotechnical origin. The students will do experiments on reinforced earth, rock-slope stability and liquefaction. There will be a day of field trips.

“I learned that concrete can float,” an eighth-grader named Morgan wrote about her experiences at the camps last year. “I learned about the Richter scale, and how structures can withstand earthquakes. My favorite part of the camp was riding the Segway and the bottle rockets, because the rockets were fun to make.

Introductory camps, recommended for students ages 12-14:
:: University of Nevada, Reno, June 16-20
:: Western Nevada College, Carson City, June 23-27

Subject camps, recommended for students ages 13-17 at the University of Nevada, Reno:
:: Electrical Engineering, June 23-27
:: Environmental Engineering, July 7-11
:: Earthquake Engineering, July 14-18
:: Geotechnical Engineering, July 21-25

For more camp information, call Debbie Delauer at (775) 327-2256 or visit the College of Engineering’s web site.


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